Pete Kaiser balances dog racing and family

by Angela Denning-Barnes on March 5, 2013

Pete Kaiser, 25, with lead dog Frosty.

Pete Kaiser, 25, with lead dog Frosty.

Pete Kaiser of Bethel finished 5th place in last year’s Iditarod and 8th place in 2011. Two days into this year’s race, he’s in 10th place. Kaiser talks to KYUK about his training this year, his Iditarod race strategy, and how it is to juggle professional mushing and a new baby.

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Pete Kaiser’s kennel is located in Bethel’s Blueberry Subdivision. It borders the tundra, giving him a straight shot out of his yard to hundreds of miles of training trails. At about 45 dogs, Kaiser Racing Kennel is considered small for professional mushers but one that’s proved to be very competitive.

Stepping into Kaiser’s small house nearby, the scenery changes. Inside is 6-month-old Ari’s zone. Kaiser’s son has taken over the living room with brightly colored toys covering the floor.

Pete: “Yeah, lots changed in the last year. (The) house is filled up with stuff and more people (laughs).
Angela: “How is it being a new Dad and mushing? I mean, you raced a lot of the same races this year as you did last year, how is that combining (with) parenting?”
Pete: “It’s fun and at the same time, it’s really hard to stay as focused as I was the last few years. The last few years not having a lot else going on, just being able to focus solely on the dogs in the wintertime and this year (there is) a lot more stuff going on. So, it’s been a little bit of a challenge to stay as focused as I need to be on the dog program to stay competitive. But, it’s been a fun year; plenty to do.”

Pete Kaiser, 25, sits with his 6-month-old son Ari in their living room.

Pete Kaiser, 25, sits with his 6-month-old son Ari in their living room.

So far, Kaiser’s balancing act has proven successful. He won the Norton Sound 450 in February and took 3rd place in the Kusko 300 in January.

But you won’t see Kaiser at the front, right from the start. He’s a strategic musher who usually waits to make his move.

“The way I race is kind of a conservative plan to have speed and power at the end of the race,” Kaiser said. “But it’s kind of a fine line of getting too far behind early in the race because you’re being conservative and not having enough ground at the end to make up time on the front guys. I think I was really close last year to my plan being executed the way I thought it could be.”

He says a few little tweeks along the Bering Sea coast in last year’s Iditarod could have had him crossing the finish line with the first few teams. As it was, he was over 6 hours behind champion Dallas Seavey, in 5th place. Figuring out how to make up that difference is part of this year’s goal.

“I would like to win and I’m going to try to win but I’m not sure if this is a winning team or not, I guess that’s why we’re going to go to race,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser has the same amount of miles this year as he did going into the Iditarod the last two years, although getting them was different. In November, when Bethel was covered in thick sheet of ice, he traveled upriver to Aniak to run snow covered trails with his friend, Richie Diehl.

Kaiser says his team this year has more Iditarod veterans than ever before. And hopefully that experience will be part of this year’s winning formula.

Pete Kaiser’s website is here.

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